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State of emergency issued in Stuart after severe corrosion, ruptured steel tendons found on Roosevelt Bridge

Transportation officials warning people not to go 'anywhere close' to bridge
Posted at 12:47 PM, Jun 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 22:57:41-04

STUART, Fla. — The mayor of Stuart has declared a local state of emergency after inspectors uncovered "severe corrosion" and ruptured steel tendons on the Roosevelt Bridge on Thursday.

Transportation officials are warning people not to go "anywhere close" to the structure after chunks of concrete fell earlier this week, forcing the entire bridge to shut down until further notice.

On Thursday, Mayor Mike Meier issued a local state of emergency for Stuart "based upon hazardous conditions currently existing with the Roosevelt Bridge. The declaration provides for the performance of public works and taking necessary actions to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the community."

Inspectors started in-depth testing of the bridge on Thursday.

In a pair of tweets around 2:30 p.m., the Florida Department of Transportation said that "latest inspections and calculations show that the first span of the southbound bridge has severe corrosion resulting in steel tendons that support the bridge being ruptured."

The tweets went onto say that "the first span of the southbound bridge will need to be temporarily supported as soon as possible in an abundance of caution. Nobody should be under, over or anywhere close to this segment. We will be fencing off the entire area immediately."

Earlier on Thursday, FDOT said the testing being done includes "carefully drilling into the concrete to examine the steel tendons supporting the bridge to see if there is corrosion."

In addition, ground-penetrating radar equipment is being used to look inside the bridge to check for problem areas.

Testing and inspections of the bridge will continue through the weekend.

Those test results will help engineers determine how to best repair the damage, FDOT said.

FDOT hopes to release a timeline for reopening the bridge next week.

Stuart police said "traffic is a nightmare" because of the inspections.

Officials said that during a routine bridge inspection on Tuesday night, a call was made to FDOT about falling concrete on the southbound side of bridge.

Upon inspection, engineers with FDOT found that rust in the steel cables had been exposed when the concrete fell. Further inspection revealed "structural issues" on the northbound side of the bridge as well.

City officials disputed claims by the U.S. Coast Guard that the bridge was at risk of an "imminent collapse."

"There is no evidence to suggest that the bridge will collapse imminently," Meier said on Wednesday. "That message was delivered by the Coast Guard early this morning in what we believe was a measure to drive the point home that it was not safe to drive under the bridge."

All north and southbound lanes of the Roosevelt Bridge, along with Old Dixie Highway which runs underneath the bridge, are now closed until further notice while engineers inspect and repair the damage

Officials said there's no timetable for how long the bridge will be closed.

"We are going to have some very serious traffic issues," said Stuart Police Chief Joseph Tumminelli said on Wednesday.

Tumminelli suggested that drivers who normally use the Roosevelt Bridge to head west and take Interstate 95 and Florida's Turnpike instead, adding that he anticipates drive times to increase by 30 to 40 minutes.